The Ancestor Project – Deborah Kay Albee by Adah Mills 

What is “The Ancestor Project?”
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As one of the final projects of the year, 7th graders at Erie Middle School were challenged to pick an ancestor, or someone else that they could research and learn more about, in order to write a story telling about their life. Students conducted interviews with family members, and some were able to gather additional resources and pictures to help tell their story. While there were many great stories written, not all will be published. 

This project was a collaborative effort between students’ history classes, with Mrs. Kruthoff and Mr. Armstrong, English class, with Mrs. Wolf, and their families. It was inspired by the original project that long-time English teacher, Mrs. Wiersema, made a tradition in her 8th grade class.

Students enjoyed getting to know more about their families, and many were surprised to learn how interesting their families were. We hope you all will enjoy their stories, too!

Deborah Kay Albee 

  • Adah Mills 
  • 7th hour 
  • Ms. Shabani
  • 5/1/24


Imagine working your whole life or even most of it! My maternal grandmother, Deborah Kay Albee, has always been a hard worker even during her childhood. She also went from graduating high school going straight into college. Deborah is also still employed and not retired yet either. Deborah Kay Albee is a kind hard worker because she had worked three different jobs during her childhood, graduated from Sauk Valley, still works at a VA clinic, and yet doesn’t have a single break. 

First, my maternal grandmother Deborah was formerly known as Deborah Kay Machen. She was born in Amboy on April 9, 1952. Deborah was born to Mary Machen and William Machen. Later on in life, Deborah grew up with one brother named William. That was her only sibling. Deborah went to Amboy schools during childhood. In elementary school, people started to call her Deb instead of Deborah. 

My wonderful grandmother Deb did many things growing up. When she turned around thirteen or younger she started working. The first job she picked up was babysitting. Deb would babysit every so often to get money, so she could run around with friends. Then, she started to be a house cleaner and Deb would clean for an hour to several hours. When she got even a little older, she even became a waitress. My grandmother was a waitress for Sunset Inn, which is still in Amboy today. 

My hardworking grandma Deborah started working as a floor nurse after she graduated from Sauk Valley Community College. Deb was a floor nurse for KSB for thirty nine and a half years. Deb was on the medical surgical floor for twenty-three years then transferred to a cardiac rehab and stress lab for sixteen and a half years. In 2018, my grandmother got a phone call at the VA clinic in Sterling that had a job opening. Deb didn’t think twice before taking the job, and she has been there for five and a half years.

When she turned the age of twenty-one years old, she got married to Arthur Albee in 1981. Deb has been happily married to Arthur for forty-three years. In 1982, she gave birth to a little girl named Amanda. This was their first child. Then one year later in 1983, Deb gave birth to another baby girl, and she was named Jen. That’s short for Jennifer. Finally, in 1985, she gave birth to their baby boy and named him Matt. That was short for Matthew. During their marriage they also had three dogs. 

Adding to this, as they grew up they went on some trips together as a family. One of them was in Nebraska and they were driving to Yellowstone National Park. She recalls her kids sitting in the camper shell in the back of the truck. They would sleep back there, played games back there, watch shows, and yelled every time they felt the littlest bump. Also, Deb added that Arthur would speed up past ninety miles per hour. Her kids did agree with her on that one. My grandmother then said that it was the easiest trip ever, because it was a road that just kept going and there was no speed limit back then. Deb said, “The kids had a flat screen TV that they would watch and they would be so quiet,” with no one on the road, that also helped. On this trip they were on their way to Yellowstone to see some nature views.

Later in her adulthood, fairgrounds were always in Amboy and it was a great time to take her kids to them. One of her all time favorite desserts from then to now are funnel cakes. Deb tried one with her kids in 1990 and has got one every year at a fairground since. When her kids really started getting farther into school one of Deb’s kids had to go into tutoring after school. My grandmother found a tutor that caught her up and did it for free. She would leave for work at seven A.M. and get back at four P.M. to watch children’s sports or to lead them. Furthermore, in her late thirties, she started having heart problems. When all her kids went to college, Deb got more jobs. She worked for Long Branch and Track Sides. Long branch is still in Amboy today. Finally, she decorated cakes for Dairy Queen, that is no longer open in Amboy due to a fire that happened there.

Furthermore, she had to have one heart surgery in 2004. It was an open heart surgery. Deb lost her mom and she had five stents, which are things to treat blockage in the arteries of the heart. Also, when Deb was in her late forties, all her children were all happily married. Even dating someone that they would end up marrying a few years later. One of them didn’t but all were out of the house. Deb was working two to three jobs at this time.

Continuing, a fun fact about Deb is she has never moved out of Amboy but has just gotten a bigger house. Another fun fact about my grandmother is that she is a storm spotter. She took a class with her husband just for fun, because she loves to watch storms. This is her best achievement, she said. Deb has one long life friend and that’s Chris Herkart. They have been friends since fifth grade. Then, Deb lost her dad in 2018. It was a very hard time for her because this was her last parent. After her dad died, she took his house in Amboy and moved into it. She has had twenty plus cats and one dog Millie, who died two years ago. 

In my grandmother’s free time, she would go to her grandkids games, play cards, play games, watch movies, and shop with her grandkids. Deb has seven grandchildren and two grand dogs. Last year, Deb had a hip surgery that has helped with pain and made walking easier for her. Also, my grandma, Deb, gives some of the best advice. Her advice for the younger generations is, “Stay out of trouble and keep your head high. Don’t ruin your name.” 

Finally, I have learned so much about my maternal grandmother Deborah Kay Albee. It makes it different because I didn’t know all the responsibilities she had growing up. This project did bring me closer to my grandmother. I learned it’s nice to live in the present but learn about the past. I would be happy to do this project again, because it was fun learning about everything. I learned that my grandma grew up with not a lot of money, it was a little harder for her, and Deb loves being outside. I learned she loves her family and had to work five out of seven days a week normally, with most of her jobs.

In conclusion, Deborah Kay Albee is a loving person because she never stops, she’s always been working, she graduated college, is still employed, and never gets a minute to breathe. Deb‘s favorite memory is playing at grandparents house with her cousins. She married Arthur Albee and had three kids. Noah is grandma to seven grandkids and two grandkids. I also loved learning about my maternal grandmother Deb. I never thought she would be so interesting to learn about.

“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world.  There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor.  

But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around.

It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.”

― Leo Buscaglia

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